By Katherine Lawless on Mar 8, 2019 8:32:00 AM
Throughout history women have influenced our views and knowledge of science from all disciplines, including microbiology. Through the co-development of an antitoxin for diphtheria by Dr. Anna Wessel Williams (1863-1954), grouping and typing of streptococci by Dr. Rebecca Craighill Lancefield (1895-1981), and the research on Haemophilus influenzae and Bordetella pertussis by a woman hailed as "woman scientist ahead of her time," Dr. Margaret Pittman (1902-1995), women have influenced the study of microbiology. The microbiome, a subset of microbiology, is a newer field and is rapidly advancing. Many of these advancements are being led by female scientists from all over the world.
Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. We turn the spotlight on some seriously inspiring women starting with the women who work at DNA Genotek. On this International Women’s Day, we are especially thankful for all you do and the impact you have on our success. In addition to recognizing our own inspiring women, we want to celebrate the work and success of a few extraordinary women in the microbiome field.
Dr. Jennifer Wargo, MD Anderson Cancer Center
Dr. Jennifer Wargo is widely recognized as the woman who started the microbiome movement in Houston. She was committed to the advancement of cancer treatment through her study of the microbiome. She received her medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1998 and entered into surgical residency training at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. In 2008 she joined the Division of Surgical Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital where she focused her studies on melanoma tumorigenesis and immunotherapy for cancer. During her time there she was involved in projects to find data on the effect of BRAF-targeted therapy on tumor antigen expression in melanoma as a basis for combining target therapy and immunotherapy in the treatment of this disease. In 2013 she joined MD Anderson Cancer Center and continued to work on melanoma. 
For more information regarding Dr. Wargo and her microbiome research, see one of her recent publications (our top microbiome publication of 2018) regarding melanoma patients in our blog here.
Dr. Astrid Feuerherm, the Norwegian University of Science and Tech (NTNU)
Dr. Astrid Feuerherm is the research leader in the dental services competence centres for middle Norway at Interkommunalt selskap (IKS) as well as the senior scientist at Avexxin AS. She received her PhD in Cell Biology at NTNU. Her research over the years has focused on oral health, insulin signalling, anti-flammatory effects and more. Her most recent studies are focused on oral health. She is currently involved one of the largest Norwegian microbiome projects called HUNT. HUNT is Norway’s largest collection of health data about a population. The project began in 1984 with HUNT1 and approximately every 10 years they begin another collection which initially consisted of blood samples then eventually included oral microbiome samples. The HUNT research centre collaborates with numerous research groups nationally and internationally. Today the HUNT study has data on approximately 120,000 people.
Dr. Mimi Tang, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne
This inspirational woman comes from Australia and she has been breaking barriers with her research in the field of allergic and immune deficiency disorders. For the past 10 years, she worked in the field of probiotics, prebiotics and gut microbiota, gaining expertise in the investigation of gut microbiota changes in allergic disease, and became a leader in the field of primary immune deficiency in the Asia Pacific region.
She was the first to develop a probiotic and peanut protein coupled with oral immunotherapy. Eighty-two percent of children with peanut allergies who underwent the therapy in her Melbourne-based trial were able to tolerate peanuts, compared to four percent in the placebo group. Through her research on allergic and immune deficiency disorders, she was inspired to launch a company called Prota Therapeutics aimed at providing remission to food allergies.
We are proud to recognize the achievements of these women and their influence on the growing microbiome field. We are also encouraged by others who are recognizing the influence of women in the field. For example, in February of this year, The University of California San Diego (UCSD) hosted the CMI International Microbiome Meeting and Urobiome (CIMM) where they featured 2 days of women only microbiome speakers to recognize their achievement in the field. According to Dr. Sandrine Miller-Montgomery, Executive Director of the CMI at UCSD:
“One of our missions is to promote the diversity of microbiome sciences. We do that by fostering collaborations between academia and industry while promoting diversity in general. So it made perfect sense that our first CMI International Microbiome Meeting, a two-day event, featured a lineup entirely of women speakers. We wanted to highlight the amazing perspective that women are bringing to microbiome science through their exceptionally high-quality work, and bring awareness to the fact that women tend to be underrepresented in many scientific meetings. Many of the attendees raved about the event, including one who went so far as to call it the ‘Oscars for Microbiome Sciences’."
We are proud to honor the work of these amazing women in microbiome and to celebrate the growing role women are playing in this important field. Tell us in the comments below about who inspires you. Share their story.
Kapila K, Kaushik K. Women in medical microbiology: Reflections on contributions. Indian Journal of Med Micro. 27(4): 285-288 (2009).